One of the main problems with resolving temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain is that jaw clenching occurs without the person realizing they are doing it during the day and at night. At night you can use a mouth guard/appliance that helps inhibit clenching. However, this is not practical during the day and as you have conscious control of your jaw while awake, improving awareness of clenching along with improving your balance, proprioception, body control and strength can help your jaw pain.
Reacting to stress can cause jaw clenching during the day but clenching can also occur as a way to compensate for poor balance and body control/proprioception. Research has shown that you can improve balance, stability and strength by utilizing a clenched jaw or increasing tongue tension. For people with TMJ issues, this may hinder treatment progress. This is because if you don’t have good postural control and movement control, even in static positions like sitting or standing, you may utilize clenching your jaw or tongue to facilitate your body stability.
Rehabilitation to improve your balance, proprioception, body control, and breathing efficiency can help reduce jaw clenching and TMJ pain, along with manual techniques, relaxation and counselling. Breathing exercises can help with improving balance as the diaphragm is not just a breathing muscle, it is also involved in controlling posture and balance.
If you are struggling with TMJ pain and have not had your breathing, postural control, balance and proprioception assessed it is worth getting this checked by a physiotherapist.
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Ehrlich, Ron; Garlick, David; Ninio, Mark. The effect of jaw clenching on the electromyographic activities on 2 neck and 2 trunk muscles. Journal of Orofacial Pain. Spring 1999, Vol. 13 Issue 2, p115-120.
Ringhof, Stein, Hellmann, Schindler, and Potthast. Effect of Jaw Clenching on Balance Recovery: Dynamic Stability and Lower Extremity Joint Kinematics after Forward Loss of Balance. Frontiers in Psychology. 11 March 2016